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Original Aims of the European Community

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Published: Mon, 23 Jul 2018

This paper considers the original aims of the European Economic Community on its formation under the Treaty of Rome 1957 as a background to the transformation of the EEC into the European Community. A discussion of the subsequent development of the EC thereafter forms the main body of this work and the staged development of the EC through subsequent amending treaties provides the focus of the analysis offered.

A brief historical survey of the European Economic Community

The European Community of 2008 sees its origins in the six member European Economic Community formed by the ratification of the Treaty of Rome in 1957. The signatory member states were France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux states. It is submitted at the outset that the EEC was founded largely on fear. It is hard to appreciate from the perspective of 2008, exactly what motivated the founding fathers of the Treaty of Rome to pursue integration because the world has moved on, but in the 1950s the base motivation was manifest and pressing. The continent of Europe had endured two catastrophic World Wars in the space of one generation. War had ravaged each and every country of Europe, and in particular the founding member states. The architects of the Treaty of Rome, including Italian Prime Minister Antonio Segni, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman and French civil servant Jean Monnet, while undoubtedly harbouring in the back of their minds lofty notions of improving the economic and social conditions of European citizens, were above all preoccupied with the goal of reducing the chances of a third world war starting on the continent.

As stated, this fear is difficult to understand in the context of the early twenty first century and this is a testament to the greatest achievement of the European Economic Community and its successor organisations. The political and economic worlds of the major European powers are now so inextricably linked and integrated within the European Union that the notion of armed conflict between those powers has become almost unthinkable. It is argued that this is precisely what Segni, Schuman and Monnet were striving for above all other considerations. All the architects of European integration had suffered great personal and family losses as a result of the two most appalling wars ever to be fought in the modern world. Their most important and profound legacy is that their grandchildren and great grandchildren have been spared a similar experience. The substance of the integrationist treaty that preceded the Treaty of Rome is certainly no coincidence. The European Coal and Steel Treaty was signed in 1951. Why? Because coal and steel were the two great industries of twentieth century war. On the same day as the Treaty of Rome was signed, EURATOM was also signed, and the European Atomic Energy Community was created in order to institute cooperation and joint research that would presumably avoid an imbalance and power and knowledge which could threaten an unthinkable atomic war in Europe.

The preamble to the Treaty of Rome sets out a broad range of aims and objectives cast in terms of political, economic and social goals, but make no mistake, the raw, basic and original aim of the European Economic Community was the avoidance of future war in Europe. At a certain level, buried deep in the political and institutional foundations of the European Community since its foundation under the Treaty on European Union (popularly known as the Treaty of Maastricht), the overarching goal of the avoidance of conflict and preservation of harmony in Europe remains to this day.

The fear that proved the overwhelming catalyst for European integration underwent a metamorphosis over the latter decades of the twentieth century. The fear of conflict between Western European powers was replaced by a fear of the threat from behind the Iron Curtain and the spectre of the Soviet Union. The desire to bind together and integrate more fully came to be fuelled by the challenge presented by the Soviet Bloc, and one of the reasons why the Soviet threat dissipated with the break up of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s was because the citizens of Eastern Europe looked at their counterparts in the West and became dissatisfied with their own lot in life.

By the time of the break up of the Soviet Union, the fear that held the European Community together had changed again. Now the preoccupation was binding together for strength and protection against the rising “Tiger Economies” of Japan and the Pacific Rim. Today, the EC is concerned with maintaining and enhancing its position with an increasingly competitive global economy. ‘Fear’ therefore, in the form of pragmatic reactions to political and economic conditions around the world, has held the European Community together, and motivated to bind and integrate itself ever more closely, since the day the Treaty of Rome was signed on 25 March 1957.

Seven years earlier on May 9 1950 Robert Schuman declared: Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements, which first create a de facto solidarity.”

It is submitted that Schuman would be content with the European Union of 2008. It has bumped through various potholes and progress has not been either smooth or rapid, but it has fulfilled its original and overwhelmingly most important objective in exemplary fashion. Just to prove the thrust and theme of this introduction, the point that Schuman chose to make immediately following the above statement is reproduced below: The coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany. Any action taken must in the first place concern these two countries.”

From the European Economic Community to the European Community

Steiner succinctly describes the development of the European Community in her text, EU Law. The EEC enlarged in stages over the decades after its creation. The United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland joined in 1973, Greece joined in 1981 and Spain and Portugal acceded to membership in 1986. Austria, Finland and Sweden joined in 1995. This was the size and state of the European Economic Community when it underwent transition to the European Community under the superstructure of the European Union in 1992. Ten further states, mainly from Central and Eastern Europe (including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic) joined in 2004 and the last states to join were Bulgaria and Romania in 2007.

In the 1980s there was consistent pressure to embark on moves towards deeper and closer integration in Europe. The signing of the Single European Act in 1986 saw the Community reform and improve its institutions and decision making processes with a view to supporting such deeper integration and in 1989 two intergovernmental conferences were held (under procedures established by the Single European Act) to consider the issues of political union and economic and monetary union respectively.

These conferences resulted in a new treaty, the Treaty on European Union (The Maastricht Treaty), which was signed on 7 February 1992. The 1992 TEU introduced substantial reforms and amendments to the original EEC Treaty and created the legal and political entity of the European Union.

Perhaps one of the most profound, but simple and easily overlooked changes instituted by the Maastricht Treaty, was the renaming of the ‘European Economic Community’ as the ‘European Community’. This small change had massive implications. It signalled the Community’s intention to move on from its original exclusively economic boundaries and develop far reaching new competencies in other socio-economic, social, cultural and political spheres.

Building on the EEC: The original aims of the new European Community

With specific reference to the title to this work, the preamble to the Treaty on European Union sets out the basic aims and objectives of the European Community at the point of its creation. These aims, which are formally summarised as stated objectives in Article B of the TEU, include in particular: attachment to the principles of liberty, democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and of the rule of law” to deepen the solidarity between their peoples while respecting their history, their culture and their traditions”

These fundamental objectives underpin the legal order and socio-political foundations of the European Union and have been articulated in EC law and in the judgments of the European Court of Justice in seminal cases such as C11/70 Internationale Handelsgesellschaft mbH v Einfuhrund Vorratsstellle fur Getreide und Futtermittel8 since the creation of the European Economic Community. The preamble to the 1992 Treaty also pledged: to enhance further the democratic and efficient functioning of the institutions so as to enable them better to carry out, within a single institutional framework, the tasks entrusted to them”

It is clear that the architects of the nascent European Community realised that the modus operandi of the EC, its institutions and legal and political processes would need to be extensively reformed and refined, even beyond its new constitution, if it was to be capable of functioning effectively to administrate and govern a more deeply integrated union of states (which was anticipated to grow rapidly, and of course did grow rapidly, over the following years). The 1992 preamble also pledged: to achieve the strengthening and the convergence of their economies and to establish an economic and monetary union including, in accordance with the provisions of this Treaty, a single and stable currency”

This objective sees the EC articulate its specific aims in regard to the economic integration of the member states and confirmation of the EC’s intention to take this integration to a new and deeper level in the shape of monetary union and the creation of a single currency, the Euro, which has of course now been achieved. Other pledges stated in the TEU preamble include: to promote economic and social progress for their peoples, within the context of the accomplishment of the internal market and of reinforced cohesion and environmental protection, and to implement policies ensuring that advances in economic integration are accompanied by parallel progress in other fields” to establish a citizenship common to nationals of their countries”

It is submitted that progress has been made on each of these aims to a greater or lesser extent. For example, the Single Market project has been assiduously protected and the concept of EU citizenship and the rights attached thereto have been advanced by the European Community and it has received cogent support in this regard from the European Court of Justice in proactive rulings that have put flesh on the bones, and in some purposive decisions a few more bones on the flesh, of EC law: see inter alia, C- 46 & 48/93 Brasserie du Pecheur SA v Germany and R v Secretary of State for Transport ex parte Factortame (and for comment see Contravening EC law: The liability of the Member State (1996)). As the Court of Justice held in Rudy Grzelczyk v Centre Public d’Aide Sociale d’Ottignes-Louvain-la-Neuve, the status of citizenship of the European Union: …is destined to be the fundamental status of nationals of the member states, enabling those who find themselves in the same situation to enjoy the same treatment in law irrespective of their nationality, subject to such exceptions as are expressly provided for”.

Other pledges made by the European Community on its creation include commitments: to implement a common foreign and security policy including the eventual framing of a common defence policy, which might in time lead to a common defence, thereby reinforcing the European identity and its independence in order to promote peace, security and progress in Europe and in the world” to facilitate the free movement of persons, while ensuring the safety and security of their peoples, by including provisions on justice and home affairs in this Treaty” to continue the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity”

Again, some progress has been made on all these fronts, although advances on the CFSP have proved unsurprisingly controversial and difficult to achieve, certainly in comparison with development in the free movement of persons, which has grown from strength to strength after the marriage of the concepts of EC workers and EC persons within the unified legal status of EU citizen.

Successive Treaties

It is true to say that the EC lost momentum after the Treaty on European Union. The subsequent Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) and thereafter the Treaty of Nice (2001) added layers of reform designed to expedite progress towards the achievement of the EC’s aims, but did so only in a piecemeal and relatively half-hearted fashion in comparison to the giant leap forward taken by the Maastricht Treaty and even in comparison to the advances of its predecessor the Single European Act.

The Amsterdam Treaty made some innovative changes and improvements in the EU fields of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and Justice and Home Affairs but its substantive amendments of the Treaty of Rome and EC law were lacklustre and minimalist. The Treaty of Nice was forced on the member states, reorganising and rationalising the EC/EU institutions to facilitate their more efficient administration and operation after the Union’s contemplated enlargement to 27 member states, but the Nice Treaty fell short of achieving its full range of proposed substantive reforms of the Treaty of Rome because they proved too controversial. Political development became patchy, sporadic and hesitant as a Euro-sceptical agenda gained influence and support within Europe. This culminated in the rejection of the draft Constitutional Treaty in 2005. Although the integrationist lobby has since gained the upper hand again in the form of the Lisbon Treaty. This issue is discussed in more detail in the following section.

The Development of the European Community: An Overview

The European Community has come a long, long way since its beginnings as the European Economic Community, which saw the introduction of a common market and free movement of goods between six Western European states in the 1950s. In 1992, when the European Community was formed from the member states of the EEC and took its place under the superstructure implemented by the Treaty on European Union, various aims and objectives were set out and progress has been made in the intervening years towards the fulfilment of all of these aims to some extent. This progress has come in the form of the staged, incremental development of the Community by means of the Treaties that followed Maastricht. Many of the reforms introduced have been forced upon the Community by its growth from 15 largely homogenous Western European member states when the Community was created in 1992 to a sprawling organisation of 27 member states, including many from Eastern Europe by 2007.

That is not to say the picture is entirely positive however, The Treaties of Amsterdam and Nice and now the Lisbon Treaty, have one thing in common and that is that none of them went as far or as deep as the integrationists within the Community wanted. The effect of this has been to slow the progress of convergence within Europe and such was inevitable given the strong Euro-sceptic lobby in various parts of the Community. One manifestation of this was the failure of the Constitutional Treaty, which was rejected by France in May 2005 at a national referendum by a 54.68 per cent majority, and by the Netherlands just days later by a 61.6 per cent majority.

The United Kingdom’s shadow Foreign Secretary of the day, the Conservative Dr Liam Fox, offered an unequivocal opinion as to the fate of the draft Constitutional Treaty: I may no longer practice medicine, but I can tell a corpse when I see one and this constitution is a case for the morgue if ever I saw one – this is a dead constitution.”

It is a testament to the commitment, drive and determination of those seeking the fulfilment of the European Community’s base objectives that Dr Fox’s confident predictions ultimately turned out to be false. The Lisbon Treaty represents the reincarnation of the draft Constitutional Treaty in all but name, disposing only of peripheral matters such as the Union anthem and flag but retaining almost all the crucial institutional and legal process reforms in word for word, line by line form. Moreover, given that the European Community and its supporters are now wise to the folly of actually allowing national populations to decide on their own future (a lesson that UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is learning the hard way), it is submitted that the Lisbon Treaty will not meet the fate of its almost identical predecessor. The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty will constitute another significant step towards the achievement of the EC’s goals.

In addition to political reluctance to invest more and more power centrally in the European Community body, the expansion of the Community has itself acted as a brake on further and deeper integration, as new challenges and issues relating to the accession of so many disparate and in some cases fragile new member states have fallen to be confronted. The expanding membership of the EC has thus frustrated the aims of the most passionate integrationists. Time will tell whether this proves to be a temporary effect or a permanent obstacle to the goal of a federal United States of Europe, which is not so proudly or overtly promulgated in 2008 as it was in the early 1950s, but which has been reflected in the Treaty of Rome and the Treaty on European Union by direct implication if not express commitment.

Concluding Comments

In closing, it is appropriate to refer back to the title to this work, which asked for a critical analysis of the development of the European Community since its creation in 1992 in terms of the degree of achievement of its original aims. The fact is that the EC remains ‘work in progress’. While progress has been certainly made – almost across the board – to a greater or lesser extent, the institution still falls short of the ultimate fulfilment of those objectives set out in the Treaty on European Union. This is unsurprising, given the sheer enormity of the task and the difficulties that have confronted integrationists have also proved entirely predictable. It remains to be seen whether the European Community will ever achieve the complete satisfaction of its ambitious agenda, but one thing is certain. The European Community continues to fulfil its first, most fundamental and overwhelmingly most important role and that is the preservation of peace and stability between its member states. For this reason and this reason alone, the European Community has proved a great success, despite its many detractors.


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